The MESH Academy team
Steve Kay, PhD, DSc, FRS, Founding Director
Professor Steve Kay FRS is the Founding Director of the MESH Academy, as well as the Director of the USC Michelson Center for Convergent Bioscience. Dr. Kay is a Provost Professor of Neurology, Biomedical Engineering and Biological Sciences at the Keck School of Medicine of USC. From 2012 to 2015, he held the position as the 21st dean of the USC Dornsife College of Letters, Arts and Sciences.
Dr. Kay is one of the world’s top experts on the genetics and genomics of circadian rhythms, and was recently elected as a Fellow of the Royal Society of London in 2019. Having published more than 200 papers, he was named by Thomson Reuters as one of “The World’s Most Influential Scientific Minds” from 2014 to 2019 and has been cited in Science magazine’s “Breakthroughs of the Year” three times since 1997. In 2008, Dr. Kay was elected as a member of the National Academy of Sciences. In 2009, he was elected as a fellow of the American Association for the Advancement of Science, and in 2011, he was awarded the American Society of Plant Biologists’ 2011 Martin Gibbs Medal for his pioneering work in plant sciences.
Dr. Kay received his PhD and DSc from the University of Bristol, United Kingdom. Prior to joining USC in 2012, Dr. Kay served as dean of biological sciences at the University of California, San Diego. He also has held faculty positions at The Rockefeller University, University of Virginia and The Scripps Research Institute, as well as served as the VP of discovery research at the Genomics Institute of the Novartis Research Foundation, where he focused on using high throughput technologies to push novel development candidates into the Novartis clinical pipeline. Dr. Kay served as president of The Scripps Research Institute from 2015 to 2016. In addition, he has founded several biotechnology companies.
Vasiliki Anest, PhD, Senior Director
Dr. Vasiliki Anest serves as the Chief Innovation Officer for USC Norris Comprehensive Cancer Center (NCCC). As a senior member of NCCC, Anest will contribute to the future vision of NCCC’s innovation strategy and collaborate with USC Norris members and leaders to foster innovation and build strategic public-private partnerships. Dr. Anest also serves as Business Director of the Rosalie and Harold Rae Brown Center for Cancer Drug Development at NCCC and Senior Director of Business Development and Industry Relations at the MESH Academy, Keck School of Medicine of USC. She has forged collaborative relationships and formulated unique partnering strategies with university, government, and industry partners that enable the convergence of disciplines that can meet an unmet need and have a greater impact on human health and disease.
Dr. Anest joined USC in 2013 from Life Technologies Corporation, where she held positions of growing responsibility in R&D (epigenetics), global market development (oncology), and global external R&D (collaborations and strategic alliances). This collective experience spanned functional and divisional boundaries to identify, evaluate, and execute on project- and alliance-based business models to drive organizational profitability. Dr. Anest is a long-time champion of innovation and collaboration, participating in USC-wide efforts such as the Innovation Council as well as external bioscience ecosystem initiatives. Dr. Anest was recently elected to the Board for the Los Angeles Venture Association (LAVA) and the Strategic Steering Committee for the Heal.LA Bioscience Accelerator. She brings over 15 years of experience in research and development, academic-industry relations, strategic partnerships, business development, and innovation management.
Dr. Anest earned a Bachelor of Science in biochemistry and cell biology from the University of California, San Diego; a PhD in genetics and molecular biology in Dr. Albert Baldwin’s lab at the Lineberger Comprehensive Cancer Center at the University of North Carolina; and was a postdoctoral fellow focusing on epigenetics with Dr. C. David Allis at The Rockefeller University. Anest was also Cancer Research Training Award (CRTA) Fellow at the National Cancer Institute, Bethesda, MD.
Paula Cannon, PhD, Associate Director for Transdisciplinary Advocacy and Cross-School Championship
Dr. Paula Cannon is a Distinguished Professor in the Department of Molecular Microbiology & Immunology at the Keck School of Medicine of USC. She leads a research team that studies viruses, stem cells, and gene therapy, with an emphasis on HIV/AIDS.
Cannon earned a PhD from the University of Liverpool in the UK and did post-doctoral training at Harvard and Oxford. In addition to her position at USC, she has held faculty positions at Uniformed Services University and Children’s Hospital Los Angeles. These positions provided her with opportunities to study highly pathogenic viruses of military significance and the therapeutic potential of bone marrow hematopoietic stem cells (HSC). Together, they shaped her current research program on the use of virus-based gene therapy vectors to engineer human HSC. Cannon’s research is funded by several foundations, the National Institutes of Health, and the California Institute for Regenerative Medicine.
She is a very active member of the USC community and served as Keck Faculty Council President (2014-2015), Academic Senate President (2016-2017), and Immediate Past President for the Academic Senate (2017-2018). Outside of her lab, she is known as a passionate advocate for the HIV community, whose ability to explain science in a straightforward and entertaining fashion makes her a sought-after and highly effective speaker.
Melissa J. Rodgers, PhD, Associate Director for Business Development and Industry Relations
Dr. Rodgers is the associate director for business development and industry relations for the MESH Academy at the Keck School of Medicine of USC. She is experienced in life science, medical device and healthcare IT commercialization; including technology evaluation, licensing and business development. Prior to joining USC, she was Manager of Intellectual Property and Market Strategy at the Innovation Lab, a healthcare technology incubator in Newport Beach, CA. Before that, she spent four years in the Office of Technology Development at the Salk Institute, first as an intern and then as a Licensing Associate. She received her PhD in Cell Regulation at the University of Texas Southwestern Medical Center and completed her postdoctoral training at the Salk Institute.
Camilo Ansarah-Sobrinho, PhD, Associate Director for Business Development and Industry Relations
Camilo Ansarah-Sobrinho, Ph.D. is associate director for business development and industry relations for the MESH Academy at the Keck School of Medicine of USC. Dr. Ansarah brings more than eight years of experience in business development and technology commercialization and over 10 years of biomedical research experience to his role. His business development experience spans industry sectors from biotech/pharmaceuticals to digital health. Dr. Ansarah was previously a Licensing Associate at the USC Stevens Center for Innovation. Prior to joining USC, Dr. Ansarah worked as a Licensing Officer at the University of Maryland, Baltimore (UMB) and as a Technology Transfer Associate at the NIH’s National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases in Bethesda, Maryland. He has a Ph.D. in Molecular Genetics from The George Washington University and a Master of Science in Microbiology from the University of São Paulo in Brazil. He has a certification in Biotechnology Business Management from the Johns Hopkins University Carey Business School and is a Certified Licensing Professional. Dr. Ansarah has also authored 11 scientific publications.
Emily Chu, MA, Program Administrator
Emily Chu is program administrator for the MESH Academy at the Keck School of Medicine of USC, where she coordinates all MESH events and assists with marketing. In addition to serving as event lead, Ms. Chu manages MESH’s social media presence and provides operational support.
Ms. Chu’s interests focus on collaborative transdisciplinary projects. She joined the University of Southern California in 2015, where she served as project specialist for the Zilkha Neurogenetic Institute prior to joining MESH in 2018. She completed her undergraduate studies at the University of California, Davis. She received her Master’s Degree in History with a focus on Archival Management from New York University.
Evelyn Moreno, MPA, Kay Lab Program Administrator
In addition to being the MESH team’s liaison for programming, scheduling, and communications support at the University Park Campus, Evelyn assists Dr. Steve Kay at the USC Michelson Center for Convergent Bioscience. She provides administrative oversight for various laboratory operations. Evelyn is in charge of fiscal management, pre- and post- grant administration, website construction and maintenance, staff support, team building, diversity and inclusion, intellectual property management, and outside engagement related to the Lab’s collaborations.
Prior to joining the KSOM, Evelyn managed a community research project based out of the Annenberg School for Communication and Journalism, where she worked with faculty, doctoral student researchers and postdocs on translational social-science research with the goal of impacting policy and social change. She has graduated twice from USC, first earning her Bachelor’s degree in Urban Applied Anthropology and Business Administration, and then receiving her Master’s Degree in Public Administration.
Phone: (323) 442-2762
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